Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 1 with Dad--DC Firsts

Taking my dad on this trip was amazing--he's a small-town cowboy who's seen more of the wilderness than most people would ever dream to see, but his experiences in big cities have been limited. Until this trip.

When deciding where we should fly in, I wanted non-stop flights both there and back, so our only option was BWI in Baltimore. After a little research, I found a commuter train to DC, so I booked the flights. Dad had never ridden subways or experienced big train stations, and watching subways through his eyes was like a child seeing their first ferris wheel.

Excuse the blurry pictures, but they tell the story so perfectly.

He thought the flurry of people in Union Station was exciting--people going every direction down every tunnel, and every single person in a hurry to get around the guy with the cane. I found a subway schedule, plotted our route to the Mall, and we went down two escalators to our line.

I had barely pulled out my phone to snap a picture of him in this alien environment when our train pulled into the station.
The blast of air that announced the train's arrival audibly and visibly shocked him. 
He took a few steps back and exclaimed at the length and speed of the train--overestimating the train's 25-35 mph speed by double.

"WHOA! This is just like the movies!"

You can take the cowboy out of the country, but he's still a cowboy at heart.
He loved everything about this new experience--hustling from line to line, pushing tickets through turnstiles--and commented on it all the time. We listened to subway performers and watched a blind man carefully make his way alongside the track, using his cane to feel for the raised path that runs a safe distance from the tracks. 

I could have ridden the trains with him all day, but we had things to see, people!
I've inherited many of my dad's traits, one of which is his love for Pepsi--he chose leaded for this trip, and I stuck to the unleaded version. 

Yes, that's a fanny pack. 

He wanted to stop at every statue and look at every building--even watching the ducks swimming in the pool and wondering why there were only girls born in that batch of ducklings.
 Every monument was new and wonderful and exciting and breathtaking.
The weather was perfect. We were told that it's never that nice in August--we were blessed with mid-September weather, and he commented on the beauty everywhere we went--how green it was, how many trees there were, how clean the city was, how BIG the buildings were.

My dad is so handsome, isn't he? You'd never guess he was knocking on 70's door, would you?
Often he would exclaim, "I can't believe I'm really here!" just like Mom did when we were in St. George. I never grew tired of hearing it.

The Smithsonian was one of the three places he wanted to visit while were on this trip, and we spent some time online deciding which museums we would see. This is the new American Indian Heritage Museum, located across the Mall from the Capitol--our first stop.
To say that Dad loves American Indian history, culture, stories, and artifacts is like saying fish love water--it's part of who he is and how he lives. He had high hopes for this museum.
After a few exhibits, we realized that this was an American Indian art museum. We asked a staff member who told us that the artifacts Dad was seeking (one Crazy Horse shirt, in particular) were in storage and couldn't be viewed. He was disappointed, but we found a few Indian history books he'd never read in the gift shop, so that assuaged the disappointment.

Although we had no formal schedule we needed to follow, we had places we wanted to see, so we cut our losses and headed back outside to plot our next stop.

Lunchtime and another DC first.

My dad had never had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich (I couldn't believe that one), and I was the lucky one who introduced them to each other. I think this will be a long and happy relationship.

Indian music across the street from the Indian museum? It was Dad's lucky day--the perfect place and the perfect weather to sit outside and enjoy the music while we enjoyed our lunch. And I have to admit, it was the best Philly I've ever had. He may never find one as good as that one ever again.
I loved watching all of the people--DC professionals rushing to their favorite food truck to grab lunch and head back into their buildings, too busy to stay outside.
Two quick train rides and we were on the other side of the Mall--to see the American History museum, where Dad's hopes to see real American Indian history were high.
 We did see his buddies, Lewis and Clark . . . 
 . . . and a few artifacts from the Revolutionary period, but that was it. He would look around every corner, but . . . no. His disappointment was relative, because we did see so many amazing things related to our country's history. Guns, banners, artillery, even a preserved horse.

This Revolutionary War commander was especially significant--Dad's dad's name was George Tucker.
 We walked through the history of Edison's light bulb and saw Old Glory. We saw the First Ladies' exhibit, Dorothy's ruby slippers, and a 1964 Ford Mustang.

We even saw history of the LDS Church--a sunstone from the original Nauvoo Temple.
 By 4 pm, we were ready to head back to Baltimore.

My dad has always been a friendly guy, and I think his conversations took complete strangers off guard. We stopped to get ice cream from a food truck as we headed for the subway, and he engaged the vendors in a lively discussion about how fat he would be if he had their job. I don't think they understood what this Idaho hick meant when he said he'd be "a blimp." Their initial hesitation quickly disappeared as East Coast brusqueness gave into genuine Idaho interest. I watched the four men laugh and talk, and I wondered if it was the first real conversation they'd had that day with a customer.

Three quick train rides, two ice creams, and one stumble on the uneven pavement, and we were back at Union Station, rushing to the MARC train for our ride north. The commuter train was packed, and we had to navigate several cars (even jumping between cars as they precariously bumped into each other) before finding seats. One lady kindly moved across the aisle so we could sit together, and we caught our breath. I had been unsuccessful in my attempt to buy tickets at the terminal in the station, so when the attendant came through the car and asked, "Where to?" I said, "Camden Yards, please." She gave me a strange look, and told me that we had hopped the wrong train. All day I hadn't made a single mistake on these crazy trains, and now we were headed I-didn't-know-where and couldn't get off.  She told me that she could get us to Penn Station, but that was as close as this train came.

With no other option, I gave her $20 and quickly pulled out a map to see exactly where that was. Lucky for us, that little mistake took us to a beautiful station a brief 10-minute train ride north of Camden Yards. Another first in that station--Dad saw his first Hasidic Jew. When you live in rural Idaho, your experiences with people of other cultures and other faiths are extremely limited.

Thirty minutes later, we found our car in the nearly deserted parking lot of the Orioles' stadium and we headed back to the hotel.

What a great first day.

As great as it was, the second day was even better.


  1. Exciting trip, wonderful Dad and daughter experience.

  2. What a lovely gift idea - a gift to both of you.

  3. This is great... I think the Natural History Museum might be where you would see Indian artifacts. Just a thought.